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Bathtub refinishing technician died from inhalation of paint stripper vapors.

Iowa Department of Public Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 12IA009, 2012 Sep; :1-15
In 2012, a 37-year-old female technician employed by a surface-refinishing business died from inhalation exposure to methylene chloride and methanol vapors while she used a chemical stripper to prep the surface of a bathtub for refinishing. The technician was working alone without respiratory protection or ventilation controls in a small bathroom of a rental apartment. When the technician did not pick up her children at the end of the day, her parents contacted her employer, who then called the apartment complex manager after determining the victim's personal vehicle was still at the refinishing company's parking lot. The apartment complex manager went to the apartment unit where the employee had been working and called 911 upon finding the employee unresponsive, slumped over the bathtub. City Fire Department responders arrived within 4 minutes of the 911 call. The apartment manager and first responders reported a strong chemical odor in the second story apartment. There was an uncapped gallon can of Klean Strip Aircraft Low Odor Paint Remover (80-90% methylene chloride, 5-10% methanol) in the bathroom. The employee's tools and knee pad were found in the tub, suggesting the employee had been kneeling and leaning over the tub wall to manually remove the loosened original bathtub finish coat. The factors contributing to this lethal exposure include use of a highly concentrated methylene chloride chemical stripper having poor warning properties ("Low Odor"); working in a small room without local exhaust ventilation to remove chemical vapors or provide fresh air; and working without a respirator that could have protected the employee from exposure. The following recommendations are made to prevent future occurrences: 1. Provide all employees with training regarding the hazardous substances in their work area at the time of initial assignment and when new chemical hazards are introduced, in accordance with OSHA's hazard communication standard. 2. Substitute less hazardous products or methods to remove tub or sink surfaces that do not involve methylene chloride compounds. 3. Use methylene chloride-based products only in areas that can be adequately ventilated with both local exhaust ventilation and fresh make-up air. 4. Use an appropriate NIOSH-certified air-supplied respirator for methylene chloride or other chemical exposures, adhering to all components of an OSHA respirator program, including exposure monitoring, medical approval, respirator selection, training, and fit testing. 5. If using methylene chloride based products, adhere to requirements of OSHA's methylene chloride standard regarding hazard communication, regulated areas, exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and exposure control methods to maintain exposures below the Action Level. 6. Notify other individuals (non-employee occupants, neighbors, employees of other businesses working on site) working near or in locations where methylene chloride may be used of the hazards and of restricted regulated areas that cannot be entered.
Region-7; Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Confined-spaces; Control-technology; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Protective-equipment; Protective-measures; Safety-education; Safety-engineering; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Training; Work-practices; Ventilation; Ventilation-equipment; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Personal-protective-equipment; Personal-protection
75-09-2; 67-56-1
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-12IA009; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-008460; B20121218B
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Iowa State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division